There’s no doubt that owning and raising backyard chickens can be a very fulfilling task. Many in the chicken community choose to raise them for the benefits of having fresh eggs daily. Others may choose to raise ornamental chickens and spoil them so they can show them off. Sometimes we just want to take advantage of their foraging talents and use them to help keep our gardens clean of pests while providing us with a little backyard entertainment.
No matter the reason we get chickens the fact of the matter is that sometimes we end up growing fond of our feathered friends even when we don’t mean to.
Some people wonder if it’s possible to raise dogs and chickens together or if you have to make a choice between the two. The answer is…complicated. Of course you can have both, but it will take much more training and diligence on your part. If you have the extra time and patience to do it, it’ll be very rewarding and full of benefits for you and your chickens.
We’ve teamed up with our friends over at Depend on Dogs to provide you with top tips on helping your dog and your chickens to get on.
Good Reasons To Own A Dog When Raising Chickens
There are benefits to adding a canine to your flock. The main reason people decide to get a dog for their chickens is so that they can provide extra security to their chicken’s run. With the proper training and guidance your dog will learn to defend your hens no matter the costs. This defense includes chasing away wily coyotes and other predators.
Dogs can also be a source of fun and amusement for your birds. If you add a puppy into your chicken family it will only be a matter of time before your chickens are playfully pecking at it and the dog starts pouncing back. It’s a beautiful thing to watch the two species coexist.
How Do I Keep Dogs And Chickens Together?
This question is the tough part. The main concern when wanting to add a new furry canine friend to the family is that it will attack your chickens. This scenario has happened so many times to other chicken owners and really could happen any time, even with proper training.
The reason your dog might attack the flock comes down to basic animal instincts. They are internally inclined to eat animals that are smaller than them, that’s what they do. The key is to break that behavior and teach them that the chickens are their friends and need protecting.
One of the best ways to own a dog that doesn’t bother your chickens is to raise them together. This means deciding to take on the task of raising baby chicks and a puppy at the same time. If they grow up together they will be able to form a friendly bond which will make your dog a lot less likely to want to eat them.
This situation is really the optimal one, and might even be the easiest on you, as there won’t be too much actual training necessary since you’re pretty much working with clean slates on both ends. The bond between the two ought to form naturally.
Adding A Chicken To The Family – What If My Dog Was There First?
Going from “dog owner” to “dog and chicken owner” can be challenging but definitely not impossible with a little planning.
When bringing new chickens into your family you will need to start slowly. Make sure that you have a secure barrier ready for your new chickens before you bring them home. If you’re starting with baby chicks you can use a sturdy cardboard box with small holes for air, but if you’re bringing in fully grown chickens you need to have a fenced run and coop ready.
Introducing your dog to your new chickens should be a gradual process. You will need to give your dog plenty of time to acclimate itself to its new feathered family members. This is where proper training comes in handy. You need to ensure that your dog at least knows and is able to, come back to you when called even when there are temptations in their environment, such as chickens.
Keep your dog on lead to begin with so that you can safely keep your dog out of trouble and ensure that all interactions are supervised by you.
Make sure you have treats and toys to hand so that you can distract your dog when necessary and capture their attention back onto you and away from the flock.
Adding In A Dog – What If My Chickens Were There First?
Chickens are known to be territorial creatures at times, so don’t think that a chicken wouldn’t attack a dog. Chickens have an instinct for self-preservation, like most animals, and chances are they won’t go down without a fight if they feel threatened. This is especially true for any alpha roosters in the flock.
Depending on your new dog’s size and disposition it may find itself in over its head even if it doesn’t try to harm any members of the flock. When it comes to introducing a dog into the mix, it’s basically the same method as described above.
You will need to make sure there’s a barrier between the two and that you’re keeping a close eye out for any aggression or bullying from the birds or the new dog. With enough time and patience they will get used to each other soon and then you can plan for the inevitable beak to snout meeting in person.
One Thing That You Should Never Do
If there’s one piece of advice to take from this it should be this: NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG AND CHICKENS TOGETHER UNATTENDED. You might be thinking, especially if things have been going swimmingly and you’ve had no incidents, that your dog would never do the unthinkable and attack (read: try to eat) your chickens.
While Fido may play nice when you’re there to supervise and prevent any bad behavior, when you leave it’s a whole other ball game. If you want to practice good habits and avoid any unnecessary mishaps make sure to keep some kind of barricade between the two. Generally the most effective way to keep your chickens safe would be to keep them inside a fenced run
Important Things To Consider
Is The Breed Compatible?
When adding in a new dog it’s important to do your research. There are certain breeds that will do better with chickens than others. Some dog breeds with strong hunting instincts may find it incredibly difficult to be calm around the flock. And they may never be able to quit looking at your flock like its next meal.
Alternatively, there are some breeds that were specifically bred to guard farm animals. Breeds that you will want to consider for this special task include the Akbash, the Komondor, the Pyrenean Mastiff, and the Pyrenean Mountain dog. There are plenty of other breeds to choose from, but these ought to at least point you in the right direction. You will need to look for a dog that’s not aggressive (except when they need to be) and that will quickly and easily “become one of the flock”.
Do remember though that even these dogs have their own special needs and so advice should be sought from breeders and the breed clubs as to whether they may be suitable for the job.
Do You Have The Time?
Remember that training a dog to perform tasks like guarding a chicken run while not getting easily distracted by the chickens can take a lot of time and patience. Do you have the time to give as much attention that will be required? If you don’t you may want to consider looking into purchasing a pre-trained dog. This option might cost you a little more, but it’ll be worth it if the dog is able to reliably perform all of its duties with very little guidance or training from you.
If you have plenty of time on your hands, and want to make sure the job is done right, you should invest in getting to get a puppy, so you can start while they’re young and easily trainable. If you stick with it you can have a reliable and trustworthy guard dog for your chickens in as little as six months.
Do You Have a Plan?
Before thinking about adding a dog into the family make sure to have a specific plan to follow. You should have everything in place before bringing the dog home. Remember that chickens will stop laying eggs when they’re stressed out, so don’t be too concerned if you see a nosedive in fresh eggs in the beginning. Once they’re acclimated to having a dog around they should start reliably laying eggs again.
Over time dogs and chickens can learn to get along. However, do be aware that it will take time and energy from you to be able to make this process work.
Remember to keep everyone safe in the early days by always supervising your dog and making sure that the chickens are safely behind secure fencing.